Should wolves be protected from hunting? | The Tylt
Should wolves be protected from hunting?
Ranchers near wolves say the wild animals are killing their livestock. Since the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, wolf populations have stabilized and grown beyond expectations. While this is good news, the wolves are now killing livestock and ranchers have few options to deal with them besides reducing their populations.
These wolf hunts are highly regulated to prevent humans from pushing the species into extinction again. Many point out concerns about decimating the population are overblown—the reason why wolves died off in the first place was because of a concerted effort to eradicate the species, which included decades of poisoning. A single hunt each year would satisfy both hunter and ranchers, while maintaining sustainable levels of wolves.
Animal rights advocates say wolves are not as stable as hunters say they are. Killing one or two wolves is not as harmless as it seems. Wolves live in highly complex social structures and killing just one could disrupt the entire pack. In fact, some research has shown livestock killings actually go up when just one or two wolves are killed.
Others say wolf populations should be maintained because of the benefits the species brings to the entire ecosystem. Yellowstone began to truly thrive thanks to the reintroduction of the animals. Wolves are top predator in the food chain and play an important role in regulating the entire ecosystem.
In Yellowstone, for instance, the reintroduction of wolves corrected an imbalance caused by the unchecked expansion of ungulates. Historically, wolves kept the elk population in balance in that area; without them, the elk became too numerous and their movements too static. Grasslands were overgrazed. Willows, cottonwood, and aspen were damaged, destroying the riparian habitats of beavers, songbirds, otters, muskrats, ducks, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Wolves fixed that. They also checked the population of coyotes, which preyed heavily on small animals.